RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Monday, June 19

Re-Analyzing Smoky Mountain Wrestling in the Era of President Trump - April 1992/2017

[Trash Culture Anthropology series are me doing whatever the fuck it is I do. These are supported by the Patreon I have set up. Feel free to contribute, but don’t feel obligated in order to read further. Thank you to my four patrons.]

It took me a little while to get through the April 1992 episodes of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and complete the first 100 days of the promotion’s run on TV, because I am dealing with in real time around-the-clock BREAKING NEWS of President Trump’s first 100 days (which we have all survived… it’s even been way more now already, despite our worst fears). Smoky Mountain maintains an old school wrestling promotion’s feel, with a slow-building narrative, and in fact most of the month of April is building up towards them crowning their first set of champions at Volunteer Slam in May. The tag team tournament is happening on TV throughout the month, and the singles tournament will be a one-night elimination process at Volunteer Slam, but there are “wild card” matches throughout April on their TV show as well, to narrow the field down to eight for the big night. But slow narratives are increasingly difficult to make time for in the midst of constant barrage of mushroom cloud teases that is 2017 news cycle. Everything is considered BREAKING NEWS and yet actually nothing seems broken yet except the way we consider news as news now. Narrative is no longer journalism’s strong suit, nor any aspect of our post-post-(post?)-modern culture. Shit’s wild bro, but not really wild, just really forced into shape nearly immediately and constantly, with very little natural flow to it. We seem to be lacking narrative, rather severely.
What we have is the fresh pop, constant fresh pop, triggered by tweets, triggered by entrances, triggered by BREAKING NEWS like Stone Cold’s breaking glass flashing across the cable news screens, but nothing is different… it’s just the same ol’ schtick and same ol’ stunner we have to sit there and watch.
It seems, however, most people today have been trained to pop freshly at their choice of face and to boo reactively at their chosen heels. This is a symptom of capitalism at this late stage, where quality has been taken out the equation for the most part, and we all just want what’s new, always, because everything is so cheap it’s easier to throw the old shit away and replace it. That’s become our collective psyche as well, get something new, always, constantly, keep flipping channels, click refresh on the little screen, or fuck it with timelines now that shit refreshes itself and you can just sit there and absorb new nothings to your fat hearts content, long stale flows of stagnant takes and no real breaking news, and we pretend it’s new, and play our part as the audience. We MAGA or RESIST or whatever the fuck it is we do.
I guess the closest thing we have to a narrative is the Russian hacking conspiracies, which has slowly built over the months, but again not with a lot of substance, at least not nearly as much as we are hyped to believe something is about to break wide the fuck open. But a lot about how Hillary campaign 2016 ran was overlooking people’s weak psychology. Her campaign assumed, much like Crockett Promotions and the National Wrestling Alliance back in the ‘80s, that people would prefer Hillary (Ric Flair) because she appeared Presidential (Championship material) and Trump (Hogan) did not.

(Dixie Dy-no-mite - a force for good in 1992 Smoky Mountains)
[Episode 10 – April 4, 1992 matches recap interlude: Dixie Dy-no-mite beat Barry Horowitz – of note is Dy-no-mite’s trunks have 17 stars on the stars and bars, I guess adding stars for West Virginia, Indiana, and not sure what the other two would be, perhaps Oklahoma and I guess Ohio; Tim Horner beat TJ Travis – and not sure anybody cared despite all the Tim Horner pushing; Killer Kyle beat Keith Hart; The Dirty White Boy beat Paul Miller.]
But to even think Hillary was championship Presidential material wasn’t use common psychology; it was assuming a certain level of discretion and intelligence (not necessarily meant as a compliment) that wasn’t automatically present in most common folk. This is not to support the rise of Trump on my part, but shit man, his whole routine was straight out the Vince McMahon 1995 through 2005 playbook, branding himself with an open-to-all public through repetition of catchphrases and dropping signature moves. (The open-to-all part is important, because some chump ass HVAC guy in Akron, Ohio, is not normally gonna be invited to a political rally, at least not for the past four decades, so just being able to show up and sit in the crowd at a Trump rally felt empowering, even without any real action involved other than standing in line.) Trump was filling the auditoriums with marks emboldened in their markdom, reading to boo any egghead motherfuckers who think they know better, and to regard as heels any know-it-all college ass students trying to show them up. The Make America Great Again catchphrase is no different than Stone Cold Steve Austin standing on the turnbuckles asking for beer. And all the mocking of Trump’s speech habits and hair was like pointing how stupid it looked when The Rock melodramatically pulled off his elbow pad to deliver The People’s Elbow. Common folk ain’t give half a fuck, they were enjoying the spectacle, even though they knew (in their heart) it was ridiculous and over-the-top. Narrative didn’t mean shit any more.

In the primary seasons of April 1992, George Bush started squashing the early rebel votes for David Duke (who is still around, looking closeted as fuck, and tweeting in support of Trump, trying to make himself relevant, which he is not, even among racialists). Bush hadn’t reeled in the unpledged resistance in primaries yet, but he never would. On the Democratic side, Bill Clinton started putting a tighter stranglehold on the field after his March Super Tuesday piledriver, winning every primary and caucus in the month of April excepting Alaska (took by Jerry Brown, also still around trying to maintain relevance). Clinton had the same goofy, don’t give a fuck swagger as Trump does, although I guess to much of the masses, Bill Clinton’s in 1992 made a lot more sense. And April was when Ross Perot was appearing on media outlets (which were far less numerous back then), teasing at running as a third party candidate, before seemingly settling into it, although one got the notion he had planned all along and was playing the “well, I’m thinkin’ about it” regular dude role up for the mark fathers of the same marks who mark for Trump now. (My own pops was a Perot mark, mostly because he was all for third parties, regardless, and sometimes I’m thankful my dad passed, because I’m afraid he might’ve been a Trump person. He was a pretty sharp dude for somebody with only a seventh grade education, so I’m not certain of that, but I have enough doubts about it that I’m glad I didn’t have to discuss politics with him being pro-Trump, because that motherfucker discussed politics in internet ways before the internet ever existed.)
The Smoky Mountain Wrestling of April 1992 was heavily dedicated to narrative though, which is what made it “old school” in comparison to the corporate merchandise-based models of larger wrestling. (Side note: it is always odd to me that anti-corporate wrestling movements like SMW and ECW tended to offer themselves as counters to WCW but never WWE, which was WWF, because panda bears hadn’t successfully sued Vince McMahon as of yet; because WWE is the corporate wrestling which still survives, so I guess by marketing themselves as not WCW, and also buying the support of the lesser promotions, through funding and talent agreements, they took the bullseye off their own back. Vince McMahon is a slick fucker, and not unlike Trump in how he appears buffoonish, but is buffoonish like a fox.)

(The Commish explaining his law & order campaign)

One ongoing narrative was Bob Armstrong acting as commissioner, and fining wrestlers for using foreign objects or outlawed moves. One such move was the piledriver, which was mostly known as legal in American wrestling, except for in Memphis, and was always an automatic DQ in Mexico. Paul Orndorff was one of early SMW’s biggest known stars, having been at least a top challenger in both WCW and WWF previously, so he was a face at first. But his finishing maneuver, historically, had always been the piledriver. As the television tournament between wild card entrants into the heavyweight title tournament went on, this started to become an issue, because Orndorff felt slighted that he was only considered a wild card and not an automatic entrant. “But you haven’t won enough in Smoky Mountain Wrestling yet,” insisted Bob Caudill. It didn’t add up to Mr. Wonderful though. And having Bob Armstrong tell him specifically the move was outlawed was too much. Orndorff, Hector Guerrero, and Dixie Dy-no-mite are being interviewed about their parts in trying to win one of the wild card matches to make it to the title tournament, and Orndorff starts to heel it up, being pissed about not being able to use his famous piledriver, poking Guerrero and talking down to him and Dy-no-mite (who was Bob Armstrong’s son under a mask, it should be noted, which in retrospect seems unfair and not above the board at all, and very Jared Kushner-y), and saying he’d beat either of them. So he and Hector Guerrero immediately have their wild card match-up, and Orndorff plays unfair but is not completely over the top, and gets the victory. Then he loses his fucking mind (according to narrative), probably from being challenged by Guerrero more than he felt he should’ve been, and piledrives him. Other dudes come in, and other dudes get piledrived. Orndorff retrieves a steel chair and proceeds to piledrive Hector Guerrero onto the steel chair, and this is Smoky Mountain so they carry the narrative fully. Guerrero is carried out on stretcher and taken to the hospital for x-rays; Orndorff is unrepentant.
I’d like to point out that, although Orndorff turned full heel here, in the interview preceeding the match, Dixie Dy-no-mite was a good guy, wearing confederate flag ring gear and a mask to hide his identity (as the commissioner’s son). Meanwhile, Hector Guerrero, booked as proud Mexican wrestler with long familial lineage in the sport, was wearing a sombrero and Navajo blanket poncho. There’s a whole shipping container of cultural shit to unpack there… AND THESE WERE THE GOOD GUYS. Not only that, those were the two good guys who remained good after the narrative played out. The white guy who wanted to piledrive people was punished and became bad.
Returning to that type of promotion is somewhat impossible today, because we’re all connected to the same sources. Shit, it was nearly impossible back then, to be honest. I guess now you can have somewhat secluded places have smaller promotions that run off-the-shared-grid, but they mostly have to do so while on that grid but regarded as an abomination by regular wrestling people, so everybody who loves it takes pride (proud boy) in being fucked up. This is your IWA-Mid South or Combat Zone type anti-corporate wrestling. Or you can have rural promotions that do this same style, without the blood and guts, but there’s a tacit agreement between promotion and audience to all play along together, to where the crowd is literally helping maintain kayfabe, which is ultimately ridiculous as fuck, and yet also not all that unlike a lot of Trump supporter spectacles we’ve seen in recent months.
[Episode 11 – April 11, 1992 matches recap interlude: Bob Holly beat Ben Jordan; Joey Maggs & Danny Davis beat Ivan & Vladimir Koloff – this was supposed to prove you didn’t know what to expect on SMW when the lesser regarded team including a guy who had jobbed on TV regularly already beat an established name, which was only established properly with one of the two men carrying it; Paul Orndorff beat Hector Guerrero – as detailed above; The Heavenly Bodies beat Brad & Bart Batten.]
Interesting that the Koloffs took the unexpected loss in the tag tournament quarterfinals, because the Russian gimmick wasn’t as strong post-collapse of the Soviet Union. And Vladimir was no Nikita either. And Ivan was old as fuck at this point. He also died earlier this year, and I made the joke a number of times at my amazingly hilarious twitter about how it was related to Putin and the hacking of the US election, because in secluded places like twitter, that narrative has been pushed to the fucking moon (where we faked a landing once… look it up).
One thing lost in the enforcement of the Russian hack narrative is the motivation behind it. It has been assumed by liberal marks that the entire thing was collusion between Russian intelligence and the Trump camp. When as a mark you subscribe to the American exceptionalism angle, it’s easy to fall victim to this particular marky ass thinking, about organized collusion. But essentially Putin’s desire to see Trump get nominated, then elected, gave him nothing more than political chaos in America. That job is done. So when Trump and Putin don’t agree on situations like Syria, the collusion narrative loses its OMG ULTIMATE TRUTH because that doesn’t follow the angle their pushing. Russia didn’t need a puppet in the White House… it just needed to sow chaos into American electoral system. Anything above that is gravy. (What’s the Russian form of gravy? Probably vodka.)
Early last year, Bloomberg published an extensive article with Andres Sepulveda, a cyber hacker who worked on the political end of things and claimed to have been involved in digitally engineering the results of multiple Latin American elections, including the Mexican Presidential election of 2012. To some, this means a simple A to B path of tinkering with results, but the Bloomberg article laid out a much different, more complex process, of fake bot accounts, social media engineering, and manufacturing consensus through algorithms rather than a direct (as well as easily traceable) changing of actual votes. In that article, when asked if he thought such forces were at play in the U.S. Presidential election, he said very matter of fact that he was certain they were. I would suggest multiple candidates utilized these technologies, from whatever firms they could get tapped into. I would imagine the possibility of a firm with Russian hackers being involved could have been likely, and may not have had any official Russian state involvement at first. I would imagine, in retrospect, the Clinton campaign utilized these same tricks. There were plenty of questionable ass twitbots in action throughout the Democratic primaries. Hell, the entire Bernie Bro narrative has never matched my real life experiences at all. (Yes, I have certainly encountered IRL Bernie Bros of the stereotypical variety, but not nearly to the over-powering extent the Clinton campaign attempted to push as narrative. In fact, when I travelled last summer, I was somewhat shocked by the support for Bernie from people I met who were minorities, and military (and one notable time on the Amtrak train out west, a minority military man… good fucking dude too, I bought him a beer and we talked shit about how great but fucked the south was).
The Clinton camp was (and to a good extent still is) the Democratic establishment, and they’ve been the ones good at pushing a narrative, about Bernie, about Trump and Russia, and though there’s truth in there (like any good narrative angle), it’s not necessarily the truth. This of course only empowers the stubborn marks on the other side to become more stubborn and markish.
[Episode 12 – April 18, 1992 matches recap interlude: Robert Gibson beat Rip Rogers – more of a straight job for Rogers at this point than putting somebody over with a good long match with narrative build-up; Paul Orndorff beat Davey Rich; Buddy Landell beat Reno Riggins – with the figure four, the Flea Market Nature Boy in fuckin’ full effect; Dixie Dy-no-mite beat Carl Styles – and they are pushing some sort of angle where Dutch Mantell is abusive to his mentee Carl Styles, but nobody really cares about Styles at all, even Bob Caudill has trouble pretending to take an active interest in Carl Style’s treatment.]
I’m not sure what all this Russian hacking narrative is building up to, though. That’s what I mean by saying it’s exhausting. Every fucking week we got people acting like we’re about to have impeachment the next day, but we’re nowhere close to any actual impeachment. This is where the political narrative of 2017 is way off the old school wrestling promotion narrative, because I knew what the fuck all this April 2017 narrative was building up to – the Volunteer Slam at the Knoxville Civic Center on May 22. That was going to be their first big major card. They would have just crowned their tag team champs by then, and would be crowning their heavyweight champion in a one-night tournament that night. Smoky Mountain had held its first TV taping the previous winter, and had been airing on local television since February, but was going to officially establish itself with that Volunteer Slam in Knoxville, in an auditorium with a long pro wrestling tradition. Smoky Mountain would simultaneously be staking itself as something new and different, while also pledging allegiance to something that had always been there already for as long as most folks knew. And most all the television narrative of pro wrestling in April of 1992 was headed to that culmination. How this works as a business model (if one can consider pro wrestling to still be a business model, as bizarre a business as it is) is everyone within the viewing area is being conditioned to look forward to that day. This was not a PPV date, or something they watched on their personal device. This was a physical in real life event in Knoxville on a Saturday night that people within driving distance would (hopefully) head into town to pay and see live. Sure, they could watch the results on TV later, but the hope was they’d come drop that $10 to see it happen live and in the flesh. (I do not know if tickets were $10 or not; I’m making a guess, and really there’s nothing educating that guess other than me assuming a big wrestling show in 1992 eastern Tennessee couldn’t cost much more than $10, at least not for general admission.)

(Prez Trump ain't no Heavenly Body)
[Episode 13 – April 25, 1992 matches recap interlude: Bob Holly beat Bart Batten; Jimmy Golden beat Davey Rich; Brian Lee beat Joe Cazana; Killer Kyle beat Reno Riggins – still no real idea after three months what they’re building Killer Kyle up for other than “he’s a mysterious maybe black guy who carries an instrument case for some reason”; The Heavenly Bodies beat Joey Maggs & Danny Davis to advance to the tag team tournament final.]
During his campaign, Trump figured out how to get the marks fired up and fill local auditoriums. And almost pathetically, he’s attempted to keep that trend going from time to time since being inaugurated, instituting house shows here or there in pro-Trump places, to keep the marks fired up by giving them a chance to see their hero up close and personal (by Presidential standards), and probably to keep his own ego fed. He did this not far from me, speaking at the graduation ceremonies for Liberty University. The whole thing was too weird on too many levels for me to even consider being involved, in support or protest. That’s kind of where I am in all this – everything is so fucking fake and so fucking worked that I can’t even be involved for fear of getting caught up in the spreading markdom. The Trump marks don’t care about anything other than hearing the catchphrases, proud boys taking to the streets wearing MAGA gear tragically bound for future Goodwill racks. The alleged antifa is no better, soccer hooligan cosplayers hoping to have a minor revolution so they can have a cool-looking talking into a megaphone social media avatar. And The Resistance™ is just more Democratic establishment social media hacking.
But here’s the thing about Trump, despite the weak attempts to undo him… beyond the constant self-branding, he’s had no establishing event. All that time he was building up to get elected, building up to doing bigly shit, but he has no Knoxville Civic Center to culminate in (or Wrestlemania to put in terms his boy Vince McMahon would understand well enough to explain). And I don’t think he ever will have an establishing event, because that’s not really in him. He’s a salesman, a marketer, who has mastered forcing his various vulgar brands down your fucking throat, whether you wanted it or not. He’s a gaudy, disgusting salesman. Really the only difference between him and most Presidents is that gaudy disgusting side, because they’re all salesmen, but generally politically savvy. He is (through his support) a very proud and stubborn mark ass middle finger to political savvy. The marks don’t give a fuck.
Here’s the sucky part, which the Democrats have already just barely started to realize… the masses are marks now, desperately short-memoried marks who no longer give a fuck about narrative but are so fogged-out in their psyche that they crave like political opioids the catchphrases to pop at, the memes to re-affirm the pops for 48 hours before fading off into the fog. All our psychology is fractured, and can’t just be put back together again, because I don’t think anybody really understands how we got so fractured of thinking. The digital change to our lives is a prominent theory, but shit, we were headed this way under Bill Clinton’s reign in the ‘90s before Al Gore created the internet while masturbating to Prince records in the Vice Presidential bedroom. You’re not going to beat the Trump-friendly Republican party by appealing to the marks higher sense of moral intelligence. You don’t get WWE fans to stop believing wrestling is great by showing them a Herzog flick. Portions of the Democrats know to appeal to the marks, you have to, you know, appeal to the marks. This means a whole lot more American flags in our collective futures, so that greedy motherfuckers willing to pretend to be a bureaucratic political hero in order to gain power will keep on waving those little fucking flags (mass produced in China), and keep portraying themselves as “not the other side”, on a greedy ass binary scale, straight to fucking Hell. No political spectrum, no common ground, just straight catchphrase “the other side is bad” binary bullshit until the American experiment is killed off for good. But even then, there’ll be plenty of suit-and-tie motherfuckers pretending it’s not dead, late era political Vince McMahons, telling you it’s as good as ever. And there’s gonna be a bunch of fucking marks still sitting there, waving their little stupid goddamned flags, playing their part in the charade, pretending it’s not dead either, some to the point they actually believe it (like a good worker always does). When that false world view becomes your reality, you don’t know any different. Expecting somebody to smarten up out of that state when exposed to a different type of truth is pure folly.

No comments: